15 months progress report!

 

I must apologise for my lack of new blog posts recently. Work and life have caught up with us, and time to myself has been lacking. However, Amelia is currently snoozing and will hopefully remain that way so I can squeeze in an update!

I can only describe Amelia as busy, very busy! As such it leaves Daddy and myself also very busy monitoring her activity. Over the last 6 weeks she has progressed from tentative steps on occasion to walking at all times. There was a short period where she would drop to her knees and crawl if she needed to be somewhere really fast (such as when the fridge door is opened), but now she just walks at full speed instead. It’s great that she’s walking because I think she feels independent and far less frustrated. But there are downsides. We had expertly taught her how to climb down the stairs and steps with a ‘feet first’ policy. It was going very well and she was relatively safe under observation. However, now she walks she tends to walk to the edge of the step and then try to step off. As such she must have someone in front of her ready to catch her as she attempts to walk down stairs. She also tries walking up stairs on occasion and doesn’t really appreciate that her legs aren’t long enough to undertake said activity just yet! She’s confident on her feet and pretty fast, and it’s really fun to watch her wandering about the place.

Once she started walking I took the decision to invest in some shoes. This was an event in itself because it turned out she didn’t find it as fun as I did. With respect to shoes she doesn’t take after mummy at all. I personally love a good pair of shoes…or 10! Amelia on the other hand screamed the shoe shop down when we tried to put the pair on her feet. It was like this for about 3 weeks every time we put them on. Then suddenly one day it wasn’t a drama anymore. Now she accepts them being put on and perhaps quite enjoys wearing shoes now….there’s still hope that we will be able to share a love of shoe shopping!

As for talking – she chats, mostly incomprehensibly, all the time now. She makes conversation, and at times you can make out a word that allows you to grasp what she’s trying to explain. She does have a few words – Mumma, Dada (or Diddy), yes, no, dog, der (for there), ta (for thanks) and on the weekend she clearly said scooter twice! She supplements her talking with plenty of pointing to help us understand what she’s trying to say. She also signs for milk, food, bird and duck. It’s amazing the dialogue we have despite her lack of words (it could just be that I make up her side of the conversation a little too much though)!

Where eating is concerned she is doing really well. There was a period where she seemed to take little interest in food. She would try a variety of foods but never wanted much more than a few spoonfuls. But now she eats good amounts regularly throughout the day. I am actually so grateful for nursery because they have really encouraged her with eating, and she has such a variety of foods there. It has inspired mealtimes at home, and it makes life a little easier for me as I am not having to think of brand new meals every day! It is tough trying to come up with 3 meals and 2 snacks per day and trying to maintain plenty of variety. I’m sure I over think it but I’m so conscious of introducing her to as many new foods as possible. I know that when cooking for just myself and Daddy I tended to end up in a routine of rotating the same meals, and therefore buying the same stuff every week. Nowadays I try to add at least a couple of new foods to the basket each time to create variety. It’s easy to tell what she does and doesn’t like because if it’s on her list of dislikes she eats all the bits she like and then places those that she doesn’t to the side, or more annoyingly she likes to drop them on the floor for me. It’s at this point where I wish we had a pet who might like to munch her leftovers from the floor! She takes her time and eats at her own pace. I try to follow advice such as putting a small amount on her plate at a time and offering her more if she eats it all. I don’t try to force feed her. When she lets me know she’s done (and she does this by trying to mush the food up with her hands or wipe it onto the floor) then I take it away. I don’t push it at all. Most recently she really enjoys it if I load a bit of food onto a spoon or little fork and let her feed herself. I’m trying to introduce her to the use of cutlery so that she starts to get the idea of how to do it.

Finally, her sleep. That ongoing saga! When she’s not teething or unwell then she sleeps really well. And for maybe 2 -3 weeks she has been completely germ free and not teething. In the day she is transitioning to one longer lunchtime nap. This has thrown up a need to alter mealtimes but it is more consistent now and it means we can start engaging in morning groups because they don’t start at just the time she would be ready for a nap! The one aspect of her sleep that I would like to work on is getting her to go to sleep by herself a bit more. From about 6-9 months of age it was easy to put her down awake but tired and she would drop off by herself. Once she started being able to stand up it became difficult because as soon as you’d put her down she would stand up and start crying. The separation anxiety added to this situation because she doesn’t like being left alone. A couple of nights in a row she woke at 3.30am one night then 5am the next. I was just so tired I decided to leave it a little longer to see what happened. It took 45 minutes of her whingeing (not screaming because I couldn’t have put up with that) but she went back to sleep. If we had gotten up with her then she would’ve been up for a good couple of hours, or if waking at 5am wouldn’t have  gone back to sleep. The night following these two she slept through completely. So I know that she can settle herself. I’ve been a bit tougher the last week or so. If she has dropped off in my arms or its clear she’s tired I have put her in the cot and left immediately. She has stood up and cried for 5-10 mins but then gone to sleep. I think I need to continue doing this a little more to encourage her to settle herself to sleep.

She’s at a really great age. She changes on what seems like a daily basis and it’s fun to watch. It means that you can never really switch off until she’s fast asleep in bed because if you dare to look away for a matter of seconds then mischief has occurred. Daddy learnt this the hard way when she got the lid off the Metanium ointment and smeared it on the carpet. He had to explain what had happened, and watch helplessly as I frantically tried to clean it up. No one was in my good books that day. Luckily the carpet looks ok now (apart from the slight jaundiced appearance in certain lights).

Has anyone else had similar incidents? Should I just accept that my carpet is unlikely to survive her childhood stain-free?

 

Maternity leave – The reality of the situation!

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“How many times in your life do you get to take time out of work?”, I asked myself. Once the pregnancy was public knowledge, and after all the usual questions about ‘Do you know what you’re having?’ ‘Have you got any names?’ and so on, came the next question ‘How much time are you taking off for maternity leave?’ Well I can’t say I had ever spent much time thinking about the answer to this before last October time. Having spent many years at school, six years at university and five years in a training scheme, I felt like I had stepped on a conveyor belt at age 4 and hopped off aged 29 with a qualification and the shock of finally having to get a permanent job – with a C.V. and everything. Now don’t get me wrong I’d had a C.V. before this but it was always more of a ‘for information’ only. It never needed to get me a job before! Anyway jump to last October and I was at another point in my life where I actually had to make another decision – how much time should I take off as maternity leave? So we talked about it and, being in a fortunate enough position to make such a decision, agreed I’d take a year out. Or at least aim for a year. I also had to decide when to finish work. Lots of people seemed to stop at 39 or 40 weeks, or use up some annual leave to finish a little earlier. Most people’s rationale was that they wanted to have the maximum time off with their baby. A colleague was just about to finish for maternity leave just as I was making the decision. With holiday to use she was finishing at 37 weeks. She sat with me one lunch and explained just how glad to finish she was. She was tired and struggling to get through a day of seeing 30-40 patients. With this advice I made a decision that I would finish at 37 weeks. I didn’t have annual leave to take.

Then came my husband’s jokes about me spending a year watching daytime television, whilst I explained how busy I would be with the baby (though secretly imagining days of meeting people for coffee and gardening).  I spent many times feeling like I was required to justify finishing at 37 weeks. I almost felt ashamed to say that I preferred to have 3 weeks to myself rather than an extra 3 weeks at home with the baby. I made many plans as to what I would do before Amelia arrived, what we would do together, and all of the tasks around the house that I should aim to do before the end of the maternity leave.

Fast-forward to March 2015. Having had exactly one week of maternity leave (just enough time for an eye check, dental check-up and a haircut) Amelia arrived at 38 weeks. Well that put paid to a spa day I had planned for the following week as last minute relaxation! I could only be thankful that I’d at least had one week off to run last minute errands because her arrival was a whirlwind. I had not packed snacks in my maternity bag. In fact I hadn’t even done any shopping. So for the first week parents and local takeaways mostly provided our meals! I can probably count on one hand the number of times I left the house in the first couple of weeks. I had a baby attached to my breast for half the day (more on that another time)! If I wasn’t feeding her I was feeding myself. I hadn’t really had many preconceptions of what maternity leave might be like to start with, but I guessed it would be tiring. I really didn’t appreciate how full on the day would be with such an intense feeding regime. The concept of ‘you sleep when the baby sleeps’ was mystifying since if I did literally that then I would not have eaten or washed for some time.

I wouldn’t say the first three months went by in haze as I can recall a lot of events and days vividly. But they certainly sped by. I really did spend quite a lot of time in front of the T.V. In fact I knew the daytime schedule like the back of my hand. Amelia also used to have the best and most sustained sleep of the day between 8am and 11-11.30 am. So generally I was not out of bed until late morning/lunchtime on most days. I was so lucky in the first three months to have relatives around for much of the time. My younger sister spent some time staying with us to help out, my dad would come over at the drop of a hat after calls to say I was just exhausted after a bad night, and my older sister, in total, must have spent probably a month on and off staying with us and helping out. In fact – my sisters, and my 15 year-old niece provided respite and undertook night feeds, giving myself and Daddy a chance to have some restful sleep.

When we got to three months I couldn’t believe just how quickly the time had gone. It was a quarter of the way through my maternity leave and I had really not achieved much. I had been a fool and decided to continue a Diploma I was undertaking so in this time I had sat and written two 1500 word reports. I cannot say for certain how this happened (I was supposed to do them before she arrived). I also had an exam to sit when she was 3.5months old. This really just highlighted the lack of insight into what it would be like. I think I thought that with all the time off I’d have time to sit and revise. I just hadn’t realised that my brain would be like mush. I have no more to say on this error in judgment! I have made other sleep deprived errors of judgment, for example buying nearly 150 plug plants (not that I knew exactly what this meant) when she was two months old and having to pot them up, and agreeing to undertake my annual appraisal when she was three months old.

Somehow, by around four months old, Amelia started to need me a little less. She was feeding less regularly and able to entertain herself a bit more. She didn’t need to lie on me to nap in the day, and the number of times I have been stranded on the sofa for an hour or two while she sleeps on me is such that I can count them on one hand. So we’ve been out and about more. I have done four mornings of work (though I don’t think I’d manage a full day until she can manage a full night of sleeping through), we’ve been to visit friends, and stayed over places. In the last month I have even managed to get out in the garden, with her taking her afternoon nap in her pram, and do some gardening. She’s now at an age where she’s far more interactive so we have signed up to some mother and baby sessions for the autumn term. It just feels like it’s taken a long time to get to this stage, and now we are nearly halfway through my planned time off.

I must admit I have enjoyed the mornings that I have been to work. My brain has been used in a way that it is used to. I have challenged it and ensure it still works (I sometimes have serious doubts about this when I realized I have left the washing powder on top of the washer, carried the T.V. remote to bed with me and told the same story several times to the same person). Yet I also really enjoy the days when we don’t get dressed and have a lazy day at home! So, as I enter month seven of maternity leave I look forward to our jam-packed schedule of baby groups and meeting friends and family for lunch or tea!

Finding the motivation…

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I sit typing this whilst sat in my pyjamas late on a Saturday morning, under a blanket, lounging on the sofa with the TV on in the background. I feel this has become a fairly standard scene for a weekend where we have no plans. Amelia has gone down for a nap, and there are plenty of useful things I could be doing. There’s the pictures that I’ve framed waiting to be hung, there’s pictures that I need to get frames for, there’s a pile of clothes in the hall that need taking to the charity shop (they’ve been sat there for a number of months), and there’s general tidying up I could be doing. Yet I have sat for the last hour and done very little! Where can I get the motivation from? Yesterday was a good day of sorts. I finished work at a decent time. I would describe my work day as ‘unsatisfying’ for some reason – it wasn’t terrible but it just consisted of several little things that left me feeling ‘blah’. So I came home, having had a good nights sleep two nights in a row, and felt a little productive. So I got in the garden and planted the plants that have been sat on my windowsill begging to be put in the garden for a week. I tied my roses into the tunnel structure I’m working on and I pulled up some weeds. I even managed to make Amelia’s dinner before collecting her from nursery.

But here’s the thing….when I collected her she was already tired because she had only had one 50 minute nap the whole day. That’s where the motivation waned. I might as well have not made her dinner because she ate all of 5 pieces of pasta, a couple of bites of broccoli and a pea or two before trying to throw it on the floor piece by piece. I presented her with a few berries. It started off well and then she took to squishing them in her hand to create maximal mess. Ok – lets just do bath time and bedtime then. Bath time involved her stood in the bath screaming in frustration whilst we washed her, and getting her into a nappy and pyjamas involved screaming and wriggling. The peace as she quickly fell asleep was a relief. But then there’s the realisation that we now need to eat dinner. This is where my motivation disappeared…..pizza it was. I then ate the pizza with the guilt that I hadn’t provided us with a healthy dinner, and I must improve upon this next week.

Then – if there had been any doubt that I had lost motivation, as I peacefully slept I was awoken whilst it was still pitch black to her cries. What time is it? Oh – 1.40am…..really? So we spent the next two hours in a tag team trying to settle her back to sleep with minimal intervention. By this time I knew that Saturday would be a slow burner.

So as I sit in my pyjamas I think of all the things that I could and should do, whist all I really want to do is lie in bed and snooze on and off. I find that life currently seems to be a cycle of a few bad nights of sleep followed by a catch up. After the catch-up there is a couple of days of renewed energy and motivation until we start the cycle again.

So I ask the mums, and dads, out there – is it normal to feel like this? Is there a way to break the cycle, or it is just a waiting game?